Homemade Yogurt Experiment #1

I eat yogurt. Seems like a lot of it. In Europe, it wasn’t such a big deal because you could buy a decent sized container pretty inexpensively – 1kg (a little more than a 32oz US container) for about 1.50‚ā¨. Here though, yogurt is $4.00 and up for a 32oz container. I’m too cheap to buy that for long.

So I thought I’d experiment with making my own yogurt. Yvonne has done it before, pretty successfully, and her sister living in The Netherlands makes it regularly; it’s pretty good, and her recipe is really simple. The yogurt I’ve really come to like though is a non-fat Greek yogurt; Oikos. Smooth, creamy, rich… You’d hardly guess there’s no fat in it. And the vanilla flavor is my fave. That’s what I’d like to make.

I did some digging around online a couple of nights ago, and found a bunch of recipes that might work, and focused in on two in particular. This one appealed to me because once it’s done setting up, it’s ready to eat; no fussing around straining the whey out of it. One of the ingredients is powdered milk, which I suppose helps it to firm up. But the whole business of using a heat source to keep it warm overnight is a bit much. This one also appealed to me; it uses a Crock Pot for cooking the yogurt. The post-processing, straining out the whey with cheesecloth and all, was a bit too much. So, I took the positive features of both for my first experiment.

I mixed together the following ingredients:

  1. 1 gallon of Vitamin D milk,
  2. 4 tablespoons of sugar,
  3. 6 cups of dry powdered milk,
  4. 1 cup of Dannon Plain Yogurt

I poured the gallon of milk into the Crock Pot, added the sugar & dry powdered milk, stirred it up well, then turned it on high until the mixture reached 180 degrees F. That took a couple of hours; using the slow cooker is genius for that because there’s no fussing over it and no worries that it’ll scald. Once it reached 180, I unplugged the cooker and waited for the temp to drop to 110 degrees F. That took a while; I waited up until 1 am for it to get there! Once it got to the proper temp, I stirred in the cup of yogurt (the culture that gets the whole batch going) then wrapped the crock in towels, and left it on the counter overnight.

The instructions say it should sit for for 14-15 hours. For best flavor they say to wait 14 hours, and 15 is best, but when I checked it at about 8 am (after just ~7 hours), it was thick and firm, and had a good taste to it. I decided to hold back though and waited until about 4 in the afternoon before really digging in, and I’m not sure if there was a lot of difference between that and what I tasted in the morning. The instructions also said the best flavor comes after chilling it for 2-4 days; I think it might be gone before then!

The consistency is a lot like what I’d expect from a Greek yogurt; thick, almost gel-like. Very smooth texture. I used whole milk, so it’s not the fat-free yogurt that is my ultimate goal. Yvonne says that the body needs some fat, but it seems like I don’t have a problem getting fat from other sources through the day, so I think it’s less important to have it in the yogurt. One of these next times I’ll try using some 2% or skim milk to get a low-fat/fat-free variant.

This first experiment was a success, but I’m not sure if it was a big cost savings. My investment into it is as follows:

  • Milk – $2.15 (gotta love Costco!)
  • Powdered Milk – $8.00 (used nearly an entire container from HyVee)
  • Sugar – pennies; nbd.
  • Yogurt – $1.00 (the container cost $3.99, but I used only a portion of it.)
  • So the total is $11 and some change, which isn’t bad considering I yielded about a gallon of yogurt from it. The killer, cost-wise, was the powdered milk; next time I’m going to try one that doesn’t use the powdered milk and see how that goes. Stay tuned!

Tubular Bells

I got bored with podcasts on today’s route, so I fired up Music on my iPhone, browsed the Artists list a bit, and bumped into Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. The recording on my phone came from a dusty old album I’ve had for decades; I digitized it about 15 years ago, and probably haven’t listened to it for five years or more. Listening to it again brought back some great memories…

If anybody knows the music, it’s most likely because the intro on Side 1 was used on the soundtrack for The Exorcist, but there is much more to the album than that. I was introduced to it back in the ’70’s when one of my older siblings bought the album; I’d lay on the floor in the living room with headphones on, plugged into the old SoundDesign stereo, reading and listening… Over and over again. It wasn’t until years later that I learned of the connection between the album and the movie, but that didn’t make me love the music any more or less; it’s a fantastic piece with or without the acclaim it received through the popularity of the movie.

One of the coolest facts about Tubular Bells is that Mike Oldfield played nearly every instrument that was used in the album. He was 19 years old when it was recorded. Which means he must’ve been 16 or 17 when he wrote the piece. Pretty amazing.

If you haven’t heard Tubular Bells, have a listen; it’s worth your time!

R.O.A.D – Feuerbach

Another Random Observation About Germany… It took a while to figure out a few things about German naming conventions, and street names are kind of interesting. Our dorm is located in Kandern, on Feuerbacherstraße. Straße, or strasse, translates to street, so when you’re in Kandern, Feuerbacherstraße is the street that leads to Feuerbach. Likewise, when you’re at the other end of that same street in Feuerbach, it’s called Kandernerstraße. Cool, right?

But the street naming convention goes a little bit deeper; when Germans refer to an individual from a certain town, they will add “er” to the end of the name of that town; someone who is from Feuerbach is a Feuerbacher, someone from Kandern is a Kanderner, someone from Freiburg is a Freiburger… So Feuerbacherstraße is the street that a Feuerbacher will walk when he goes home to Feuerbach. Makes perfect sense!

We walked over the hill and ended up in Feuerbach a couple of weeks ago; such a cute little town. Here are a few photos. First one is a sign over a bench that was built to wrap around a tree.


Here is the text from the sign translated to English:

The Resting Bench

She now stands where the place is great
For hikers a true treasure,
The human being is grateful,
The limbs rejoice.
The bank, it is for all here
And therefore we wish,
That all be careful,
So that the next one may rejoice
At the bank, every day.
To you, to us, not to us
That wishes everyone

Family Wakaluk

Basically an invitation for hikers to stop and rest their feet. Very cool, and very typical of people in this area. Now that we’re back in Sioux Falls, I have a mind to build something similar in our front yard for human being passers by to rest and let their limbs rejoice.

The day we made that hike to Feuerbach was a beautiful day, and the clouds were spectacular! This was taken from the top of the hill called Schornerbuck between Kandern and Feuerbach, near the Feuerbacher Höhe.


“Höhe” translates to “height”; usually when you see that word on signs around the Schwartzwald, it refers to the top of a pass or high point with a scenic overlook. It’s not easy to pronounce; I’ve been told that pronouncing the o with the umlaut is like vocalizing a long e sound with your lips pursed like you’re saying “oooo”. Lots of times I’ll see it spelled in English verbiage as “oe” instead of just an o with the umlaut.

BMWotD – 1995 M540i

The ’95 ///M Sport 540i market just continues to improve, at least for the fortunate few who own one and decide to sell. I’ve written about a couple other similar cars here before; they were pretty nice cars too, and the asking price on this one is just that much higher.

This is one of the few e34s I’d really like to own. But like my other old BMWs, I won’t likely be buying one like this; it’ll likely be a clapped-out, neglected POS that I’ll massage back to driver status over time. It’d sure be nice to buy something that’s been kept up like this car, but… I’m cheap that way.


1995 BMW Sport with the $7500 M Package.
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Time for a Brighter Theme?

I changed the website theme a few years ago, but now that President Obama’s days are numbered, it might be time to change things up a bit with a new website visual theme. Donald Trump won the election. That fact doesn’t thrill me, other than that it means Hillary Clinton lost, but I’m cautioiusly optimistic about the prospects for the country with him in office.

True, he’s no prize, but I’m still hopeful that his Presidency will work out well for the country. And it’s that optimism that makes me think it’s time to change the theme. It will take some time to find one I like and to tweak it to work well with my content, so watch this spot for news of the change.

Roadkill – Stubby Bob Does Wheelstands!

This is all kinds of awesome. I don’t watch the Roadkill guys often, but this one is definitely worth the time. They take a ratty old Ford truck and do terrible things with it. Terribly cool.


I’d love to have the time, space, & resources to do the kind of stuff they do, but it’s probably a good thing (really good thing) that I don’t, because it would probably end with me being dead. It would be fun though. ūüėČ

The Roadkill guys got a V-drive from a place called Slim’s Fab Farm; very interesting place. From the looks of the website they primarily deal with motorcycle mods, but Slim also does some wild stuff with old vans that do wheelstands. According to Slim, his work “is rough; my stuff’s not clean, it just gets done.” From what’s shown in the video, that’s very true.

This is the episode where Stubby Bob is introduced; not nearly as fun as the later one, but still worth the time.

Google Chrome’s Automatic Translation

Living in Germany is made a lot easier by some of the tools Google has produced, like the Google Translate app, which uses your cell phone’s camera to do on-the-fly OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to read things like foreign language signs, labels, and any other text, then translate that text to English (or one of many other languages.) It’s an amazing product; not perfect, but a huge, huge help!

Another helpful item from Google is the automatic translation feature built into the Chrome web browser. The translation can take a page that’s written in German (for example) and convert it to English with a right-click command. You can even set up Chrome to automatically translate any page you view in a given language. And that’s how I have Chrome set up; whenever it recognizes German text on a web page, it converts it. Most of the time it works well enough that I barely notice it’s working. The translation is never perfect, but that’s usually just a result of the grammatical differences between German and English. It at least gives me a good idea of what the page is trying to communicate, which would be totally lost on me if I was looking at nothing but Deutsch!

That automatic translation got me in a bit of trouble last week though… One of the family computers died, so we needed a replacement. I didn’t have my ducks in a row when we were visiting the US over spring break, so I had to find one over here. I shopped around on Amazon and eBay, and finally settled on a Lenovo ThinkPad L520 I found on eBay (the sizeable balance in my PayPal account was pretty much the deciding factor!) Here’s a screenshot of the purchase details, which is how I saw the ad, translated:

The price was right, it was well-equipped, and it even had a QWERTY keyboard, which is an important consideration when living in a country where most computers come equipped with a German language keyboard, which has a few different letters than the US keyboard, and has the Z where the Y should be. So I ordered it.

But when the computer arrived, it did have the German keyboard AND the OS was all in German. Crud. The OS I could deal with (although why changing languages in Windows is ten times as difficult as in Mac OS I will never understand) but the keyboard… I got back onto eBay and shot the seller a message, telling him I wasn’t terribly happy with what I saw as a keyboard bait & switch. Surprisingly, I got a note back within a couple hours telling me that nowhere in the auction was anything said about a QWERTY keyboard. I chortled; wait until I show him the confirmation email I received… But when I went back to the email, it did say QWERTZ, not QWERTY! What?!?!

So I went back to eBay to take a look at the auction; for some reason the translation took a little longer than usual, and sure enough, the description said QWERTZ, not QWERTY, but after a moment the translation finished, and the description said QWERTY!

Well now that’s a problem. Here’s the purchase details sans translation:

See the difference?

So apparently in Google’s world, QWERTZ translates to QWERTY. But of course that translation doesn’t transfer over to the real world.

Yes, I should’ve been more attentive on this deal, but like I said, the translation just works well enough that I just don’t notice it doing its thing. And when searching through a page of 25 items in the search results, of course the items further down the list are going to be translated before you get there. Still, I should have verified with the seller before ordering.

So for now, Caleb will have to live with a keyboard that doesn’t match the key map, and I’m shopping for a real US keyboard for a Lenovo L520. Doh.

R.O.A.D. – Egg Cartons

The Germans (and I’d guess other Europeans as well) are kinda nuts about the metric system. So much so that they even sell eggs in cartons of ten. Who knew…


Actually, I think the metric system makes a whole lot of sense, and can’t understand why the US didn’t follow through with the push to convert back in the ’70’s. I’m kinda getting the hang of it, but measuring speed in kilometers per hour is still kinda weird to me. As is temps in Celsius… Seems like kind of a foreign language in a lot of ways.

Another Truck I Like

Today’s new trucks lack character. Too much plastic, and too many curvy lines. Trucks from the ’60’s however… They exude “cool”. Like this one, a 1966 Chevy 1-Ton Six-Pack long box.


I’ve always liked the styling of the first-generation Chevy C/K trucks, but the not so much the six-pack or four-door variants; they always seemed a bit ungainly looking, with the rear doors sharing the lines of the front door, which left an overly large B-pillar. But that looks much more at home on this truck, with its longer bed and larger wheels.

It’s for sale right now, in Woodbury, CT, for the low, low price of $55,000. I’ll bet the thing didn’t even cost $5,000 when new, but age plus rarity plus the work that’s gone into restoring it justify the price. Whether anyone will actually pay that much for it remains to be seen. But still, that is one killer looking truck! The only thing I’d want to change though is the engine; a 6.9L Cummins turbo-diesel would make it absolutely perfect!

1966 Chevy Factory Full Four Door Pickup Custom One of a kind – $55000 (Woodbury CT)

1966 Chevrolet Full Four Door Factory Four Door C60 Truck..
This body is a factory GM production truck built by CROWN Bodies For GM there are only about 500 in existence and not one of them is like this rare beauty..
Originally a Produced for the Municipal Industries this truck was more than likely a Fire Truck or Service Vehicle for a Water dept. Etc..
The Bed you see on it is the only Fabricated piece of the truck and it fits and shows very well to modern functionality. Bed is 10 Feet with track inside and Bedliner for full function..
Motor is a Chevrolet Big Big Block set to hold power at 3000 RPM with Gobs of Torque for Pulling just about anything you want..
Transmission is an Allison Automatic making it perfect for cruising or working
Rear end is 19.5 Eaton with a detroit locker. Super Single Rear Tires eliminating the Dual wheels and giving it an awesome rod look..
Seats are Brand new Chevy Silverado Pickup Buckets
the rest speaks for itself..
Tonsa Fun as stated on the back is an understatement..
If you like original items this is the one you want..
Recently appraised at 85000.00 this is a bargain for any truck enthusiast.
This build was completed 10 years ago and has been proven reliable with a mere 4000 miles on it..
Appraisal will be provided for serious interests..
This truck has not been listed anywhere else as of yet so strike whIle it’s still a ghost..

Random Observations About Deutschland (R.O.A.D)

New category alert… Ever since we moved to Germany (yeah, I know I haven’t posted about that, yet. I¬†have a post or three pending about how that came about, but if I waited until that was done, I’d never get to the fun stuff!) there have been a number of things I’ve noticed that make living here, um, different than living in the US.

So I thought I’d start a fun thread of things that are different here. And I mean no more or less than that; they’re different, not wrong, not weird (well, there are some things that are just downright weird, but that might just be me. Yeah, mostly me), just different. And there are plenty of things to write about. Puh-lenty.

I’ll start off with shopping carts. Why shopping carts? Because one of the main jobs in this new gig is feeding the 21 high school boys in my charge, and that means food is needed. Lots of it. So I spend way more time pushing shopping carts in grocery stores than I ever dreamed possible.

Shopping carts in the US are pretty standard fare, and I never really gave them much thought; metal or plastic baskets, two swivel wheels on the front, two fixed wheels in the back, a spot for a kidling to sit close to whomever is pushing, etc… One of our neighbors, a retired gentleman, worked part time at a grocery store for a while, and would talk about having to collect shopping carts from the parking lot; that made me think a little more about carts in recent years, and made me a bit more mindful of where I left my carts when I was done with them. It also annoyed me when I saw others leave them standing out in the middle of the parking lots or just shoved together in the corrals with no concern for who is going to have to sort them out. Pity the poor grocery store employee who draws the short straw and has to go out to gather up carts in the cold of winter on an ice & snow covered lot. And if the parking lot is wet, icy, or cold, the chances that the shoppers will leave their carts in weird places increases.

The Europeans have come up with a totally ingenious way to avoid all the hassles of cart wrangling; each cart has a little chain attached to the handle with an end that fits into a lock slot on the handle of another cart. To unlock a cart, you simply stick a coin (50 cent or 1 or 2 Euro) into a slot in the handle. When you return the cart and snap the chain from the next cart into the lock on yours you get your coin back.

The deposit coin is all the incentive that’s needed to get the customer to return the cart. In the US, without that incentive, people just assume that someone will take care of it, so they don’t think twice about leaving it wherever or leaving a mess in the cart corral.

It sounds like some Canadian stores have also started using this system; the US market would be wise to follow suit. A couple of the stores we’ve visited had lock boxes on the carts that looked to be add-ons; a quick Google search led me to Maciver Enterprises, who markets a retrofit “Kartloc” system. I’m sure introducing a new system like that wouldn’t be without a few hiccups on startup, but I think people would adopt it readily, and it would be totally worth it.

One gripe I have about the shopping carts is that they¬†have four swivel wheels, which makes steering them a pain in the neck. And the knees, and the back. In the US, the rear wheels are fixed and the front wheels swivel, which makes it far easier to keep a cart going in one direction. But with swivel wheels on all four… negotiating a turn in the store – especially with a full load in the cart – takes a bit of doing. Get that same cart on an¬†uneven surface, like in the parking lot, and it’s next to impossible to get it to go in a straight line. This guy explains the issue¬†pretty well:

I guess having four swivel wheels makes the¬†carts easier to push around¬†the stores, which are generally smaller than what I’m used to, have narrower aisles, and are more crowded… At least when the cart only has a small number of items in it. But when the cart is heaped with the quantity of stuff we buy on a regular basis, the four swivel wheel thing fails¬†miserably.¬†The one store I’ve visited that had fixed rear wheels was Carrefour in France; that store is a bit larger than most around here, but the aisles are just as crowded and narrow as most others, so I’m not sure what motivated them to deviate from the others.

And yet another thing that makes grocery trips difficult is the way you deal with the groceries after they pass by the checker. In the US, there is typically an area behind the checker that’s as large or larger than the belt in front of the checker where the groceries can be put so that a bagger can pack them up for you. Here though, store employees don’t bag for you (they don’t provide bags either); all the groceries get put in a small spot behind the checker, and you need to put them into something. Usually we put the groceries back into the cart, then push the cart to the parking lot where we have a number of plastic bins to hold the groceries until we get them home. With the volume of groceries we buy, and some of the large quantities, you really need to be on the ball so that your ten cartons of milk don’t end up on top of the bread or vegetables you already put into the cart. That is easily the most stressful time of shopping, except when the cashier rattles off a question in German and you have no clue what she just said or how to respond. Did she ask, “Would you like the promotional points with your purchase?” or “Are you as stupid as you look?” I guess it all works to keep life interesting, and to keep me humble.